Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Early Review: The Secret Spiral by Gillian Neimark (ARC)

Book: The Secret Spiral by Gillian Neimark
Release Date: 26 Jul 2011
Publisher: Aladdin
Genre: Children's Lit, Fantasy
Summary: Ten-year-old Flor Bernoulli is your typical kid, who especially likes buying delicious spiral pies from the Sky High Pie Shop every Wednesday. The owner of the pie shop is the wonderfully mysterious, eccentric and charming Dr. Pi. His knack for making pies is not his only talent--he is also a wizard and one of the guards of the universe, who is in charge of making sure he keeps the fire of life going into specific equations that keep the earth and nature in balance. Without him, the marvels of life and nature that contains spirals, such as seashells, sunflowers and hurricanes would cease to exist. But then, Dr. Pi, (who owns a magical spiral seashell that allows him to peer around the curve of time and into the future), discovers that his two nemeses, Mr. It and Mr. Bit, are hot on his trail again. They have tried to put out the fire for the spiral many times before--and this time they might just succeed. Can Flor help save Dr. Pi and the universe as he fights to keep nature in check--or will she be too late?
Note: Please note that I received this book for free from the publisher via Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab for the purpose of an honest review. I did not receive monetary compensation for my review and receiving this book in no way affected my opinion or how it was expressed in my review.

Review: Flor is having an exceptionally odd day. While buying a pie for her mother like she does every day, Dr. Pi tells her to get two since she will be having guests at dinner. He also scolds her for not paying attention during math earlier that day. But how could Dr. Pi know what would happen in the future or what she was doing in school while he was making his fantastic pies? Flor soon becomes immersed in a whole new world of magic when Dr. Pi confides that someone is desperate to steal his formula and needs a favor only she can fulfill.
I don't enjoy writing an unfavorable review for The Secret Spiral. I wanted to enjoy it so much but the book and I just never meshed. Part of the problem, I believe, is that I am older than the target audience (elementary school kids). The rhyming and word play is probably something that will keep kids entertained and interested but all it did was grate on my nerves. There was so much of it that at times I was confused and lost. The storyline was cute but I don't think it will appeal to a very broad age group. I think even middle-grade children will find it to not be their thing.
I love it when media gets kids excited about learning or other things they should be doing. For example Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign is brilliant, love it and love her. The Secret Spiral shanghaied me with math. I will admit that it was pathetic of me not to pick up on it when reading the summery what with names like Dr. Pi and Flor Bernoulli but kids aren't going to pick that up either. In a time when reading and literacy are struggling movements, I found it difficult to read a book also pushing math. Math, that I have to say, I never learned in school.
So at this point in the book I was a little frustrated but still enjoying the magic and some silliness. And then we met Flor's father. I absolutely had to force myself to continue reading after this point, which was difficult because I didn't connect with any of the characters so nothing that happened to them was something I cared about. Anyway, I did however loathe the father who couldn't be bothered to be a part of any of his daughter's life simply because he missed France and never contacted her even once because he assumed she never thought of him. Is he a complete idiot?! Then Flor is forced to witness his now perfect life. I honestly wanted a meteor to take out all of them and couldn't understand how Flor was accepting it. Maybe it was an overreaction on my part but absentee 'parenting' is a huge pet peeve of mine and I felt the characters were saying it was okay.
Oh, the ending is a ginormous cliffhanger too.

Quotes & Thoughts as I Read:
  • He filled his shop with pies once a week. They were a strange and marvelous shape. They were not flat. They were not square. They were almost not here or there. Ok, Dr. Seuss. I bet they couldn't be eaten with on a box with a fox or in a house with a mouse either. I think younger kids will love the word play in this book but it's grating on me already and it's only page 3.
  • “You see, Flor, I am in charge of the Spiral,” Dr. Pi said very solemnly. “Oh?” she said, staring at the gleaming shell. “The logarithmic Spiral.” I can't believe I didn't guess this as soon as I read Dr. Pi's name. I was really hoping for magic based on the cover... not, you know, math. Can you say 'trickery'?
  • Flor had never seen a shell this big, though. It took up the entire table. She peered into the gleaming interior. She could almost hear the wind and sea. And suddenly she saw something. An image on the interior of the shell, like someone somewhere had a tiny movie camera. Ohh, now I'm interested! Hopefully the book will stay like this.
  • “When the going gets tough, the tough drink tea!” Hear, hear!
*all quotes are taken from an ARC copy of the novel and may not reflect the finished version

Rating: 1½ Bites

28 comments:

  1. Yeah, math's a hard one to sneak into books, unlike science or history. This doesn't sound like one my daughter would like.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @carolsnotebook
    Math is a hard one to sneak in. I can't think of a single book who has even tried to other than this one now that I think about it. I tend to avoid math related books though. I got enough of that when I took calculus based physics, blah.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, I have to thank you for reading and reviewing my book even if it wasn't your "cuppa tea" :). I will say there's very little math in the book. The idea is to invoke a sense of wonder about the spiral form that shows up everywhere around us, in everything from spiral galaxies to certain seashells to the inside of your ear. It is true that math can describe that spiral, which is what's so neat. Many forms in nature follow math, not just the spiral. Thanks again for reading it and hopefully you'll like the sequel a little better.

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